Dairy Goat Nutrition
Dairy goats make their milk from what they eat. The higher quality their diet, the better quality and quantity of milk they will produce for you. Contrary to popular belief, goats do NOT eat anything. Especially newspapers and tin cans!
They are actually quite particular about what they prefer to eat. Goats are browsers not grazers. This means they naturally amble around taking a bite of this and a nibble of that much like deer. You generally won’t see them moving over a pasture with their head down eating continuously like sheep, cattle and horses do. Goats do not naturally eat grass. When you see goats in a field eating grass, it usually means they have nothing else to eat. Their ideal food is a mixture of brush, vines, undergrowth, and bushes.
What this means for you as a dairy goat owner is you can’t expect to be able to maintain a dairy goat on a grassy field. They may survive, but they will not thrive, and they will be unable to produce milk of any quality or volume on such a limited energy diet. Making milk requires massive amounts of energy. Couple that with the genetic predisposition to produce far higher volumes of milk than their wild counterparts, and this makes the modern dairy goat require very careful feeding management to maintain a healthy body condition and make delicious, wholesome milk at the same time.
Unfortunately, the types of natural growth that goats eat are also the slowest to grow back once eaten down. Think of it this way. How many times through a growing season do you have to mow your lawn? Now, how often in that same season do you have to clear vines and bushes off of a fence line? See the problem? Since very few people have the vast quantities of land it would take to maintain a productive dairy goat depending on natural browse alone, we have to find other sources of food for our dairy goats to provide them with what they need.
High quality mixed grass hay coupled with the best legume hay you can get, in addition to a well-balanced but limited grain ration are what you will need to provide your dairy goat. Never tell anyone you are purchasing hay from that it is for goats. They, acting on the common assumption that goats can eat anything, may not provide you the best quality hay. If they ask, tell them you are feeding a horse. Horses have a very simple and sensitive digestive system. Any mold or contamination in hay can very quickly kill a horse with a deadly disease called colic (THE most feared word in ANY horse barn). Because of this, almost all hay producers know to provide only their very best to a horse client.
In addition to the best hay and grain, a balanced mineral mix offered free choice, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) free choice, and clean fresh water and you will have given your dairy goat all it needs to thrive while giving you the best milk her genetics can provide as well as a long and happy life.
Provided by Yvonne Robinson
NYRLE Real Goats Dairy